Different types of diets
With so many different diets out there, it can be hard to know what diet plan is best for you. But dieting doesn’t necessarily mean cutting down calories - diet simply means the food you eat on a regular basis.
Different people might be looking for different results from a diet. Someone might change what they’re eating because:
- They’re trying to lose weight
- They’re trying to get fit
- They want to increase muscle and tone
- They’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant
- They have an allergy, intolerance or dietary requirements such as coeliac disease
- They have a health condition like high cholesterol or diabetes
Do all diets work?
If we’re talking about losing weight, not all diets work for everyone. Fad diets don’t offer a long term solution for a healthy lifestyle, or long-term weight loss. They’re typically based on a low-calorie diet, cutting out food groups and unusual combinations. While they might help you to initially lose weight they can make you ill and you might not be getting all the nutrients you need.
Some of these diets won’t work simply because they’re too difficult to keep to. Days of fasting, cutting out carbs and detoxing, can make you very hungry, grumpy and in some cases dizzy and nauseous. Starting and stopping diets, so called ‘yoyo dieting’, isn’t good for your self-esteem or your body.
It’s best to find a healthy balanced diet and eating pattern that works for you and your routine. This makes it easy to keep up with and become part of your lifestyle. Hopefully this means you can enjoy preparing, cooking and eating food, rather than worrying about calories and cutting certain foods out.
Which are the best diets?
The best diet for most people is eating a healthy balance of all food groups in the right quantities for you. The most important elements of a healthy balanced diet include:
- Eating 5 portions of fruit and veg daily
- A third of all meals should be high fibre starchy foods like potatoes, bread, rice or pasta
- Having some dairy or dairy alternative drinks/foods
- Eating some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins
- Choosing unsaturated oils and spreads to cook with and have on toast, but in small amounts only
- Drinking 6-8 glasses of water a day
If you’re eating foods high in salt or sugar, then you should have these less often and in small portions. It’s ok to eat these foods, but they should be eaten as part of a balanced diet.
Best diet for weight loss
The best way to lose weight healthily and stay at your target weight is to make permanent changes to the way you eat and exercise. Not many people are going to spend 3 hours in the gym everyday and never eat chocolate again. It’s all about being realistic and finding what’s right for you.
Making exercise and a healthy balanced diet part of your routine means it becomes second nature. This should also help you make the changes long-term and you’ll lose weight steadily over time. It’s recommended to lose around 0.5-1kg a week until you reach a healthy weight for you.
Best diet for lowering cholesterol
Eating a healthy balanced diet and staying active is a great way to lower cholesterol. Eating foods which are high in saturated fat can increase your levels of cholesterol.
- Cakes and biscuits
- Hard cheese, butter, ghee, lard
- Meat pies
- Coconut or palm oil
Try eating foods low in saturated fat such as:
- Vegetable oils and spreads
- Oily fish
You can also reduce the amount of fat in your diet by choosing to grill, steam, boil or microwave your food instead of frying it in fat.
Best diet for pregnancy
During pregnancy there is no need for a special diet. It’s important to maintain a healthy balance of all the food groups to make sure you and your baby are getting all the nutrients you need.
You should be able to get the majority of your vitamins and minerals from the food you’re eating. But most pregnant women will need to take a folic acid supplement.
There are some food and drinks pregnant women should avoid, these include:
- Unwashed fruit or veg
- Soft blue cheeses
- Mould-ripened cheeses (e.g. camembert)
- Food /drinks made from unpasturised milk
- Raw meat
- Raw eggs or duck, goose or quail eggs
- Game meats
- Raw shellfish
- Swordfish, marlin and shark
- High dose vitamin supplements or any supplements containing vitamin A
If you’re thinking about losing weight or changing your diet for a specific reason, it’s always a good idea to speak to your GP. They will be able to help you with suggestions on how best to manage your diet and stay active.
Eating a balanced diet and staying active is one of safest and most effective ways for most people to stay healthy, at all stages of life.
Some people find it hard to manage their diet and attitude toward food. This can become an eating disorder.
Please note - if you or someone you know struggles with an eating disorder it’s important you speak to someone. Your GP is a great person to start with and there are charities such as Beat Eating Disorders who can support.